Hephaestus Shrugs

"Dammit. This is the last straw. I quit!" Hephaestus mopped his brow and damped the forge. He pulled out a scrap left over from the Prometheus job and set it out to cool, not even bothering to quench it. "Who cares."

Hephaestus limped over to the three-legged bench he had cast from bronze, inlaid with gold and silver figures telling of the great deeds of the sons of Zeus, and sat. His leg still hurt, ever since he’d been thrown out of Olympus for the crime of being ugly. Days he had fallen. If the islanders hadn’t tended him, he, an immortal god, would have died. "Or at least been so hurt death would have been a blessing," Hephaestus muttered to himself.

Death. Maybe it was a blessing. At least mortals got to stop working, eventually. Sure, their shades flitted around in the underworld, but they don’t have to meet deadlines or deal with impatient gods. "Where’s my new winged sandals?" says Hermes. "Hephaestus, I need more thunderbolts! Get it done!" thunders Zeus.

None of those Olympians can make anything. Well, Hermes and Athena could if they wanted to, but why should they, when they can just subcontract it with the hunchbacked lame god of fire? "I’m done. They can forge their own damned thunderbolts!"

Hephaestus grabbed his cap and his cane and made for the exit, a portico of gold, ivory, and horn, that he’d made in his spare time. He was almost to the door when he remembered his tools, and turned back to fetch them.

"Oh Hephaestus, I need a favor!" A voice rang through the hall, high and clear. It was Hera. White-armed Hera, the bitch-goddess of marriage. No wonder Zeus kept roaming, thought Hephaestus.

"I’m retired," he grunted. "Find someone else!"

"But my dear child, there’s no-one else. No one can make things like you do. I just need some armor, a mere trifle, and a shield," purred Hera.

"Mother, why should I make it?"

"Why, because I love you, my dearest son."

"You threw me off of Olympus!" shouted Hephaestus.

"But you were lame. How could we keep you? You can’t blame us. We didn’t know of your great skills then." She came closer, her gown rustling. She smelled faintly of anise. "I would never throw you off the mountain now." Hera enveloped him in her beautiful arms.

Hephaestus sighed. "But you’d all be helpless without me. You can’t do anything!"

Hera squeezed him to her chest. "But you’d be ugly without us. You need us as much as we need you."

He looked around his workshop, at the fine works, the forge, the stocks of metals, the bin of gems, the half-finished products, the girl automatons who served him while he worked.

"If I do this, can I come up to the main hall?"

"Why yes, my dear!" murmured Hera.

Hephaestus’s heart burned in his chest. "Will," he stammered, "will Aphrodite be there?"

Hera smiled. "Of course!"

"Automatons! Fire up the forge! Back to work!"